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35 Present Perfect Simple & Continuous games

By Alex Case
An array of fun classroom games to help your students understand the difference between present perfect continuous and present perfect simple.

1. Silly Perfect Mimes

Give students a list of Present Perfect Simple and Continuous sentences which are silly or could be interpreted in a silly way, e.g. “He has been walking 20 dogs today” (which could mean all 20 at the same time), “He has been cooking Chinese, Italian and English food” (ditto), and “He has read Wikipedia” (which could mean he has read the whole thing). Also include the “correct” versions of these sentences (“He has walked 20 dogs today” etc). Ask students to draw or mime the sentences, then discuss which ones are more likely.

2. Perfect Pictionary/ Mimes

You can also use simpler sentences for miming or drawing, such as “His hands are dirty because he’s been fixing his bicycle” and “He has jumped 3 metres”.

3. Perfect Challenge

Students try to find things that they have done more of or have been doing for longer than their partner (i.e. things where the number in their answer is bigger than their partner’s) by asking and answering questions, e.g. “How long have you been wearing the shoes you have on now?”, “How many countries have you visited?” or “How long have you been studying in this class?”

4. Only I am perfect!

This is similar to the game above, but with students trying to find something that is longer or greater for them than for anyone else in the class. Once they have thought of something they go around asking everyone about that thing, e.g. “How long have you been living in the same house?” If they have asked everyone and they do have the largest number, they are the winner and can sit down. If anyone answers with a bigger number than their own, they have to think of another possibility and start asking the question again. The same game can be played sitting down by shouting their questions to each person in the class- loud and fun!

5. We’re Both Perfect

Students try to find things that are connected to the past and present that they have in common, e.g. “How many foreign countries have you been to?” “Seven” “Me too!”

6. We’re Both Perfect Bluff

Students play the game above, but replying “Me too” even when that isn’t true. Their partner then asks them questions and sees whether their story seems believable or not, then guesses whether it is true or false.

7. Present Perfect Continuous Yes bluff

This is a good game for showing the connections between the Present Continuous and Present Perfect Continuous tenses. A student asks their partner “Are you …ing at the moment?” at the moment, and they must answer “Yes”. The next question has to be “How long have you been …ing”, then they can ask three more questions before they guess if that original “Yes” was true or not.

8. Present Perfect Simple and Continuous Yes bluff

This is similar to the game above, but the student asks “Have you ever…?” or “Have you been …ing recently?”, which is followed by answering “Yes”, three additional questions and guessing whether the original answer was the truth or a lie.

9. Sentence stems bluff

Give students three to five sentence stems with a mix of Present Perfect Simple and Continuous, e.g. “I have never_________________”, “I’ve been________________ ing recently” and “I haven’t ______________yet”. Ask them to fill one sentence with a lie and the other ones with something true. They then read out their sentences and their partner tries to guess which one is false, perhaps after asking additional questions (to which they can still lie when answering)

10. Present Perfect Simple and Continuous Answer Me

Give each student 3 to 7 cards with a different number or length of time on each, e.g. “About 2 years”, “Since January” and “Seven”. They can look at their cards but shouldn’t show their partner(s). They should ask questions to get those answers from their partner, e.g. “How long have you had that coat?” If they obtain an answer that is on one of their cards, they can discard it. The first person with no cards left is the winner.

11. Taboo questions points challenge

Write some difficult to answer questions with Present Perfect Simple and Continuous, e.g. “How many people have you kissed on the lips?” Ask students to rank the questions between 5 points (taboo questions/ something most people really wouldn’t want to answer) and 1 point (really easy to answer/ normal questions with strangers and acquaintances). They choose how many points they want to go for, and their partner will ask them a question in that category. They then get a number of points that is all, none or a part of that depending on how well they answered the question.

12. Taboo questions coin toss

You can also ask students to make tricky to answer questions like those above. Students make any question they like in one of the two tenses and then toss a coin. If the coin is heads they can choose one person in their group to ask the question to, but if it is tails they have to answer the question themselves. You can help them make questions and practice particular vocabulary by giving them prompts to make questions from, either letting them choose any one they like or asking them to pick a card from a pack.

13. How perfect are you?

The students or teacher design questionnaires to test “How restless are you?” (“How many times have you moved house?” etc), “How conservative are you?”, “Are you a good boyfriend/ girlfriend?” etc. You can ask them to only use these two tenses, ask them to try to use these two tenses when they can, or give no restrictions but choose topics which you hope will produce these forms.

14. Perfect Stars

Collect data about famous living people that can be expressed in the Present Perfect Simple or Continuous, e.g. “He’s been making films for/ since…”, “She’s been married… times”. Students listen to the sentences one at a time and try to guess who is being talked about.

15. Opinions on trends

Ask students to agree on and write Present Perfect Simple or Continuous sentences on trends in things like happiness in their country, infidelity, equality between the sexes etc. The topics chosen should be ones that students will have a difference in opinion on.

16. Opinions on trends ranking

Write similar sentences to those in Opinions on Trends above, but ones that most people would agree on e.g. the number of imported cars in their country. Ask students to work together to rank those changes from the most positive to the most negative.

17. He has been the best candidate

Write descriptions of pairs of job candidates, one who has more experience but something negative happening recently (e.g. “He has worked as a postman for 20 years but recently his back has been hurting”) and the other who has less experience but nothing negative (e.g. “He has only been working as a postman since January”). Students need to decide on the best candidate of the two in each case.

18. I’ve got the job!

Students are given roleplay cards with the job they want to be interviewed for and one reason why they shouldn’t be given that job written in the Present Perfect Simple or Continuous, e.g. “You’ve been working as a gangster”. Their partner must interview them and try to find out the thing that is wrong.

19. Just this has been going wrong

Give the students one positive (permanent) attribute for each category of person on the worksheet or board, then students write just one recent negative thing and other teams choose which one is least negative, e.g. for a future husband or wife “I’ve always been healthy, but recently I’ve been (cough)ing (a lot)/ my hands (have been) shaking”

20. Class Survey Guessing

Students guess the grand total for the class and then ask questions to find out if their guess is correct, e.g. “How many times have the people in the class been to theme parks this month?”

21. Class Survey Guessing Two

This is similar to Answer Me above, but as a whole class activity with some time to prepare what they are going to say. Students try to write a sentence about the whole class using the number or length of time you give them, e.g. for 100 they write “The class have drunk 100 cups of coffee in the last week”. The team who are closest without going over are the winners.

22. A perfect guess

Tell the students how long or how many and they have to guess the thing (either by making a sentence or making a question to get that response), e.g. “Two” “How many times have you been to America?” “Three times. Try again” “How many cigarettes have you smoked since noon?” “That’s right, two. Your turn”

23. A perfect guess 2

One student says how long they’ve been doing something with the Present Perfect Continuous, and their partner has to guess what they have achieved in that time with the Present Perfect Simple, e.g. “I’ve been playing the violin for 2 years” “I think you have passed two tests in that time”

24. A perfect guess 3

You say the achievement and they guess how long it has taken you, e.g. “I’ve learnt 200 words of German” “I think you’ve been studying German for 2 weeks” “No, try again”

25. Present Perfect numbers warmer colder

Any of the A Perfect Guess games above can be played with the person guessing being given clues with “Much longer”, “Slightly less” etc.

26. Find someone who is perfect

Give true sentences about students in the class out, and they have to find who each sentence is true of as quickly as possible by mingling and asking questions.

27. It’s difficult to find someone who is perfect

This is similar to the game above, but only give the students clues as to the true sentences such as verbs, numbers or lengths of time. They have to guess both the true sentence and who it is true about.

28. Who’s been sleeping in my bed?

Students make up variations on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story with more modern variations like “Who’s been playing with my Wii?”, either as a story or as an improvised play with different students in the group taking different parts.

29. Who’s been sleeping in my house?

Students make sentences with Present Perfect Simple or Continuous about people they know, e.g. family members or people in their local area, and their partners try to guess who they are talking about.

30. Present Perfect Simple and Continuous sentence completion

Give students 10 to 20 sentences stems that most of them will be able to complete with true sentences, e.g. “I’ve been studying _____________“. They should fill in the missing parts of at least half the sentences to make true statements about themselves. They then read out just the parts they have written, and their partners try to guess which sentence they wrote that for. For a much more challenging extension, they can then write some whole true sentences about themselves and get their partners to guess the first half of the sentence when they read out the last few words.

31. Feelings present perfect sentence completion

Give students sentence stems mostly starting with “I feel sad/ depressed/ excited/ tired/ optimistic/… because I’ve been _______”. It also possible to have ones not connected to feelings such as “I have white powder on my hands” or “My face is red”. Ask students to fill the gaps with any ideas at all, the more imaginative the better, e.g. “I feel tired because I’ve been trying to understand BBC News 24”. As in the game above, they should read out only the part that they have written and see if their partner can guess which sentence it is from.

32. Feelings present perfect sentence completion 2

Give students sentences where only the feeling is left blank (e.g. “I feel ___________ because I’ve been watching my sister get married”) and ask them to fill in the gaps with the feeling that is most likely for them (e.g. “jealous”, “teary” or “happy” for that example sentence). You can then get them to compare answers with their partner, try to guess their partner’s answers, try to guess the most popular answers in the class, try to guess which answers their partner has written the same as them, or try to guess which answers the majority of the class has written the same as them.

33. Feelings and reasons random pelmanism

Students select random feelings and verbs (e.g. from cards face down on the table or with their eyes closed from a list) and have to make a logical sentence with them, e.g. “I am happy because my friend has been hitting my cheating boyfriend” for “happy” and “hit”. If their partners accept that such a feeling is possible in that sentence, they get a point.

34. Advice

Students try to think of good advice for problems given in these two tenses, e.g. “I’ve lost my voice”, “I haven’t had a date for 10 years” or “Recently I’ve been feeling nervous in crowded places”. These sentences can be given by the teacher or made up by other students. You can add more fun and language practice by people writing their advice down (Agony Aunt letters) and then folding the paper so that the problem can’t been seen. They then pass this to another group, who try to guess what the problem was.

35. Moaning

Students compete to outdo their partner in the personal problems they describe, like two grannies on a bus comparing medical problems, e.g. “I’ve been getting headaches almost every day” “That’s nothing, I’ve had a hole drilled in my skull to relieve my headaches, they were so bad”

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET October 2009
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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